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  • In that may we find peace

    Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

    I was going to do an early Ash Wednesday service in the prison tonight – because it’s one of my favourite themes (and we can’t make pancakes), but a tooth abscess meant I came home after only 45 minutes inside. Yep, a 5.30 start, 6 hours in the car, and not a single conversation had. I thought I’d post one of the prayers I was going to use – more religious than my usual stuff, but they like religious stuff in there. If somebody could use it, that would make me feel a lot less like the day was a complete waste.

    You are the source of all life, God
    Beyond our imagining,
    you craft a world of possibility
    and breathe it into every moment.

    We praise and thank you for this world
    in all its beauty and complexity,
    for its reminders of fragility and strength,
    for the sustenance it gives us each day.

    We praise and thank you for the gifts of companionship that we receive from those around us
    reminding us that we are a community bound by love.

    We praise and thank you for being God
    for having love that stretches way beyond our limits
    for bringing life into places where there has only been pain.

    You are God and we are not
    People: In that may we find peace.

    Forgive us for the times we try to be God -
    When we rely on our own power and
    when we define the world on our own terms
    when we act as judge and condemn people
    to hells of our making.

    You are God and we are not
    People: In that may we find peace.

    Forgive us for when we craft you into our human image
    proclaiming that you hate who we hate,
    living as though your forgiveness has a very human limitation
    and refusing to believe that you love the world with infinite mercy

    You are God and we are not
    People: In that may we find peace.

    Forgive us for the times we try not to be human:
    when we pretend we are perfect
    and have no sense of our own vulnerability and flaws
    when we ignore the frailty of our memory
    and the limited nature of our understanding.

    You are God and we are not
    People: In that may we find peace.

    In the silence we think of all we have done – and not done -
    that has created a distance between us and God
    and we ask God’s grace to bridge that distance and bring us close to God again.

    Scripture says that those who are in Christ are a new creation;
    everything old has passed away;
    see, the new has come!

    Hear then Christ’s word of grace to us:
    ‘Your sins are forgiven’
    People: Thanks be to God.

    human

    Monday, February 16th, 2015

    From the stuff of the earth we were formed
    And to the earth we will return.

    We – the product of life’s relentless longing for life -
    are here,

    for now.

    We are part of a pattern set into the world since time began,
    where cells are formed by dirt
    into the shape of being:
    unique,
    unrepeatable,
    fragile,
    vulnerable,
    and finite.

    Between the piles of dust that are the bookends of our lives, we have this:
    a moment-that-takes-a-lifetime
    of being ‘us’,
    when cells interact with cells and form the finger print that defines us;
    when cells interact with cells and form the neural pathways
    that hold our stories, and our memories and our future dreams;
    When cells interact with cells and form the shape we hold in the world.

    From ashes we are made
    and to dust we will return

    Human from beginning to our end.

    casting out demons

    Monday, February 2nd, 2015

    I so don’t want to end up in a situation where i’m doing an exorcism tomorrow in the prison. Or where I have to turn one down.

    With that disclaimer, this is a prayer of thanksgiving and confession, to go alongside Mark 1:21-28

    God,
    we thank you for this extraordinary world
    and its reminders of resilience, grace, hope and life:
    for when grass shoots break through concrete
    when the sun emerges after storms
    for when people offer laughter in deep sadness
    In these moments we see glimpses of who you are -
    and we are grateful.

    Yet if we reduce you to being like the cycle of nature
    or the best of humankind,
    we diminish your power to make the impossible real:
    to break apart the impenetrable evils of oppression,
    to cast out the very real fears that paralyse us
    to banish the insidious demons of judgement and worthlessness

    Forgive us God when we do not trust you to deal with the unspeakable awfulness in our lives and world.
    In the silence we name the parts of our lives and our world that we believe are
    too broken to ever be made whole

    Leader: Cast out our demons, Lord,
    People: Make us new again

    Forgive us when contribute to the brokenness of the world and the lives
    of people around us.
    In the silence we name the things we have done that separate us
    from you and from others

    Leader: Cast out our demons, Lord,
    People: Make us new again

    Forgive us when we trust darkness more than we trust your light.
    In the silence we name the things we think we need to keep hidden.

    Leader: Cast out our demons
    People: Make us new again

    Scripture says that those who are in Christ are a new creation;
    everything old has passed away;
    see, the new has come!

    Hear then Christ’s word of grace to us:
    ‘Your sins are forgiven’

    People: Thanks be to God.

    what will you do with this one wild and precious day?

    Friday, January 16th, 2015

    Someone wrote the title of this post as part of a note they left on my desk – a riff from Mary Oliver’s poem.

    How you live your days is, after all, how you live your life.

    What will i do with today? I will write reports, work plans, help someone I manage with some workflow interventions, plan a discussion I’ll be running in a prison next week, sort out some budget issues, think about how we better manage some communication issues in a very stressed environment, scope next steps in a number of projects, and start enacting some of them. I will troubleshoot numerous issues; I will swear under my breath [and out loud] at the cruelty of people to each other, and be amazed by the courage, resilience, humour and imagination of my colleagues. I will read documents and reports from some new areas of responsibility, and write dozens of questions in their margins that will expose my ignorance and then add to my knowledge. I will feel depressed and hopeful, simultaneously and exhaustingly. I will write a project outline for a new type of tour, and think of solstice spaces for the middle of winter.

    I will daydream of long trips to iceland, book writing, poetry and phd’s, and try again to learn some icelandic diphthongs. I will list again the myriad of possibilities swirling in my mind about how i want to spend the next three years, and feel grateful for the privilege of choice in my life.

    I will peruse the Guardian and Age websites, and facebook, and maybe even twitter, over and over again, even though nothing much will change, just to clear the front of my brain for the deeper subconscious space it requires.

    I will drink coffee, wine, laugh with my amazing niece, tear up when i remember friends who are going through really tough challenges, get angry at the world and myself, remember that i am inadequate and unfinished, and still be pleased when i manage something well.

    And if i have time, i will buy shoes.

    That’s how i will spend this one wild and precious day.

    I wish it was more poetic. I wish i had the luxury of my old role, where i spent days crafting pieces of writing, and imagining new spaces, and where every intention was to fill the world with beautiful things. And yet, this is what it’s like to take responsibility: to now be the one who has the opportunity to curate a work space for those coming after me that honours their unique talent.

    I wish this one wild and precious day, and this month and this year, was more blog worthy. But it’s not. So while posting has been sparse over this last year, i know the gaps between them will be even greater through this next. And this post is to draw the line and remove that responsibility from myself, to leave space for whatever comes next.

    [plus: gratuitous iceland photo. because it's beautiful]

    DSC_0097

    Advent 1 – practice being ready

    Thursday, December 4th, 2014

    For the prison this afternoon:

    It doesn’t matter whether or not you can have faith;
    whether or not you are cynical or despairing,
    hope-filled or hope-less:
    what matters to God is simply that you are here.

    We are entering the time of Advent,
    in preparation for Christmas.
    Advent reminds us that if God is to be born again
    in the most ordinary parts of our world and our lives
    that we need prepare for it.

    We need to make the space in our lives
    where love might be born.

    Welcome to this tiny corner of a harsh and dark world.
    Together, let us practice being ready
    in the faith that Christ will come.

    metaphor

    Thursday, November 6th, 2014

    Reasons why I want to thank Eve for eating the apple:

    Imagine a world where there was only a garden
    every day

    where knowledge existed only of what was right in front of you

    no need to make choices
    no need to weigh up the bad and the not so bad
    the good and the brilliant

    no need for the wisdom
    that comes from understanding my own choices
    and potential
    and nuance
    complexity
    and courage

    no need for Breaking Bad
    or The Wire

    no need for the generosity of forgiveness
    for the richness and depth that comes from letting someone be more,
    and letting ourselves let go

    imagine never tasting an apple
    or apple pie
    or apple cider

    imagine never needing to understand consequences
    and existing with the not knowing
    of what I am capable of
    and what I am missing out on

    imagine never needing to attempt to understand another person
    and what drives them
    and never needing to imagine another person’s world
    and to acknowledge how limited my imagination can be

    no need to experience my own limitations
    and to test them beyond themselves

    no need ever to move beyond here.

    you’re still there

    Thursday, October 30th, 2014

    It seems there is a different ‘hardest thing’ every day.

    Today it was that you didn’t remember that we really had fun last night

    but sometimes it’s that you don’t remember you rang just before, and just before that, and before that,
    first thing this morning,
    and asked the same question
    to which i gave the same answer I gave yesterday,

    and i will next time you call, too.

    The other day it was that you didn’t remember that you loved cappuccinos
    or that salmon was always your favourite
    and that you would never have ordered pasta

    [though i loved that while we were eating,
    you whispered to me that you’ll always vote labour,
    till you die.
    'Anyone but that Tony Abbott', you said again, wrinkling your nose with familiar distaste]

    Sometimes it’s that you don’t remember your son, the one who died all those years ago,
    in the car accident
    [yes, that was him, yes, it was terrible]
    and your grief becomes raw again
    because it’s brand new, every day.

    Sometimes the hardest thing is that look on your face
    when you’re confused
    and trying so hard not to let on

    and when you craft a memory from threads that were never meant to be sewn together
    and declare adamantly that this is truth
    from which nothing can detract or divert you,
    and we find ourselves defending things that would be indefensible
    except they never happened to begin with.

    And sometimes you make a joke
    that’s so sharp
    and so quick
    it makes us laugh with relief and surprise
    as much as humour
    ‘you’re still there’
    we realise.
    thank god.
    thank you.

    the gates of hope

    Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

    I used to stand at the gates of hope
    calling to those who walked past
    till i was hoarse
    speaking with truth,
    bearing witness to grace

    and then either I moved
    or hope did
    and i find myself
    here
    where i can’t
    for the life of me
    see it anymore.

    I’m sure it’s there
    [i’ve not given up on it!]
    it just must be hidden
    behind the seemingly impermeable walls
    of self-righteousness
    or optimism
    or wilful ignorance
    where i seem to find myself
    today

    Perhaps if i stop looking
    and stand still
    for long enough
    hope will find me

    or maybe I will finally hear the voice
    I’m sure is there
    - hoarse, no doubt, and croaky -
    calling truth and grace to me
    from its gates.

    i just don’t know

    Friday, October 24th, 2014

    i am perhaps in danger
    of holding agnosticism as fiercely
    and with the same tenacious commitment
    that would not let me
    let go
    of faith
    when it had had its time.

    and i wonder again whether it matters
    [this belief or its absence],
    and what it is in me
    that simply can’t decide.

    when it isn’t a crisis

    Friday, October 17th, 2014

    It’s been a while! Much happening in non-public spaces… but this one’s for Amy, and for Jill, and for Sarah, and for David, who all said in the last couple of weeks, ‘will you update the fricking blog already’…

    What if it isn’t a faith crisis.
    What if leaving it all behind holds
    nothing of crisis,
    just liberation.

    Like being born into a new human-ness
    that you want to honour
    as deeply as you’ve honoured
    every god you’ve believed in.

    What if it seems that the others are having the crisis
    with their need to squeeze you into
    the labels they hold so dear,
    as though you being there
    can validate their need to stay true
    to what you no longer believe

    but it’s like living in clothing
    that simply doesn’t fit,
    the dress that isn’t quite right
    so you have to keep adjusting
    wriggling into
    pinning up
    and tying on.

    Why would you?

    And maybe leaving that behind has made you more human
    and more alive
    than you’ve felt before.
    Like this matters:
    this one fragile existence
    with its very real ending
    and its very hard truths.
    And maybe leaving that there, for others to hold,
    gives you empty hands to grasp all that’s left to live.

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